ON THE FARM
What kind of cows do you milk?
We have a mixed herd, and each breed brings a different value to our herd. Not to mention they all have very different personalities making it a lot more fun! Our herd consists of; Holsteins, Jerseys, Aryshires, and Brown Swiss. All of our cows are registered, meaning they are purebred of their breed. Similar to AKC for dogs, this adds value to each of our cows. We can trace our cow’s families, as well as have them classified which puts a numeric score to evaluate the cow. We also like to keep track of our cow families by keeping the same letter for the beginning of each name. Be sure to look on our Facebook page for our Calf Naming Contests!
How does a dairy cow spend its day?
The cows are milked in the morning, and again in the evening. It takes only about five minutes to milk each cow. If season allows, they are free to come in and out of the barn to roam and graze in the pasture in between. However, dairy cows spend 12 to 14 hours a day lying down in the barn, often chewing her cud. This is the time when they are producing milk. Cow comfort is our top priority. We provide our cows with waterbeds, clean water, fans in the summer and insulated curtains in the winter to ensure they are content. Well rested and happy cows produce the most and the best quality of milk.
How much milk does a cow produce?
Our herd averages about 60 pounds of milk a day per cow. Each individual cow varies greatly depending on the breed and where she is in her lactation.
Are your cows grass fed?
Yes, the majority of their diet consists of grass, aka hay. Our cows go out to pasture during the summer months to graze on fresh grass. And in winter months we supplement with rations of dry hay, and a grain for extra energy. Whey, a by-product from our cheesemaking, is used to wet and bind this mixture known as TMR (total mixed ration). We work closely with a nutritionist to adjust the grain based our herd’s needs. By feeding a TMR we can ensure that every bite the cow takes meets her nutrient requirements.
How do the cows handle the cold Vermont winters?
Cows normal body temperature is 101.5 so they handle the cold much better than humans do. We button up the barn with insulated curtains to help keep them warm. Our calves wear jackets and get an extra layer of straw bedding to keep them warm.
When, and why do you separate calves from their mom?
The mom licks and dries off her baby for a few hours. Since baby calves are born with no immune system, we want to make sure that they are fed the best quality and right amount of colostrum at their first feeding. Colostrum contains antibodies to protect the newborn against disease. This is the most important meal of their lives so we will milk the mother in the parlor then feed her colostrum directly to her baby. Then the baby calves are moved to their own individual pen, which allows us to monitor their health individually. Their immune system is young, and the pens prevent the spread of sickness amongst them and gives them shelter.
Do you calve seasonally? No. Our cows calve year round. We like to keep our milk production level throughout the year for our creamery. A cow will go on vacation or "dry" two months before she has her calf. By managing our herd we are able to constantly rotate cows in and our of production.
I heard your farm used to be a water buffalo farm, what happened to the water buffalo? The owner who was originally from Canada, brought the herd back north. However, we did keep one water buffalo heifer to tell the story.
IN THE CREAMERY
How long between milking the cows and making the cheese? The total "milk to make" time ranges from just 12 hours old to under 48 hours. Since cheesemaking takes place M-F, the milk from weekend may sit for no more than 48 hours.
What are curds and whey?
Curds are what cheddar is before being formed into blocks or wheels and aged. When curds are really fresh, they are referred to as "Squeaky Cheese" as they squeak against your teeth! Whey is essentially the water you are trying to remove from the curds in order to make cheese. It is a byproduct, contains many proteins, and when dried and converted to powder form, can be used in many baking products. Weight lifters use it to bulk up.
When do you add the beer for your Custom Alehouse Cheddar? And how much beer is added? How long is the cheese aged?
After the whey has been drained and curds have been milled, we hose it down with beer. We use about a keg and a half for 1500 lbs. of cheese. Then age for at least eight months to achieve the desired flavor profile.
How much milk does the large vat hold and how much cheese can you make with it?
The large vat holds up to 16,000 lbs. of milk and makes approximately 1,600 lbs. of cheese. (ten percent yield)
What are cultures?
Cheese makers use starter cultures to control the process of ripening the milk and converting the milk sugar into lactic acid. Cheese cultures are combined single strains of bacteria that were isolated many years ago from cheese dairies producing great cheese. The same cultures are used for cow's, goat's and sheep's milk.
What is Rennet?
Rennet is complex of enzymes that is added to the vat of milk to coagulate it into a tofu consistency. Once cut, it separates into the cheese solids known as curds and the whey, which is the liquid that will drain off.
Is your Rennet vegetarian?
Yes, we use a microbial rennet. No animals were harmed to obtain our rennet.
Which of your cheeses are pasteurized?
Alehouse Cheddar, Edam, Lille', Tilsit, and Angeline.
For the raw milk cheeses, how long are they aged?
At least six months and up to three years. It varies per type of cheese.
What is a Peg Mill?
A "Peg" mill (imported from England) has metal fingers that tears the curd into various sizes and is required to make authentic English-style cheddars. We are the only scaled North American producer using this method and the result is a drier texture that can be complimented by a complex array of flavors.
What is a Coulommiers? Coulommiers cheese is a cheese from the 'Coulommiers' commune in the Seine-et-Marne department from France, as this is the place where it was produced for the first time! The cheese is very similar to Brie and has a white, bloomy edible rind. Coulommiers tastes the best when served with apples, pears or fresh berries.
What makes a Coulommiers different from a Brie or a Camembert?
It is taller in format, has a lactic core that ripens last, and nuances of nuts and mushroom.
Fenugreek is an Indian herb and spice with many health benefits. The seeds are used in cooking and to make medicine. Fenugreek seeds smell and taste somewhat like maple syrup, and are often used as a maple flavoring. We use the seeds in our Sugarhaus Edam cheese to give notes of maple and walnut.